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Review: Audience frontRow USB Audio Cable - Thoughts from The Audio Beatnik

As I said in my review of the Purist Audio Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB Cable, I have never given USB cables much thought. That was so much the case that when I reviewed the Audience frontRow cables back in 2019. I didn’t even request a USB cable.

I have been using a Clarus Crimson USB cable between my Innuos Statement and my PS Audio Directstream DAC because I had one on hand. As an audiophile and a reviewer, I decided to give a couple of the expensive USB cables a try. So I requested the Purist Audio Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB Cable to review. At the same time, I also requested the Audience frontRow USB Audio Cable that I am reviewing in this post.

About Audience frontRow Cables

First, let me say just a little bit about Audience and the name frontRow. Don’t be deceived by the name! In no way do the frontRow cables make you feel as if you are sitting in the front row listening to music. Let’s face it, the front row may not be the best place to sit at a live musical event.

For these cables, the front row refers to where they are positioned in the plethora of audio cables, and they surely belong there. We recognized the Audience frontRow Cables as our Product of the Year for 2019, and we aren’t the only publication to sing their praises.

The Setup

OK, now back to the review. I placed the Audience frontRow USB Cable between my Innuos Statement music server and my PS Audio DirectStream DAC. The frontRow interconnects were used to connect my LTA MZ3 preamp to the Butler Audio MONAD 100A monoblocks. Then I used a 2.5 meter run of frontRow speaker cables to connect the monoblocks to my QUAD ESL57s and later to my DeVore gibbon Super Nine speakers. All of the power cables were Audience frontRow, and they were plugged into the HB Cables PowerSlave Marble Power Distributor, including the power cable from the wall.

Break In

Audience breaks in the cables on a cable burner before they send them to you, but they recommend at least another 100 hours before you give them a serious listen. Right out of the box, the USB cable sounded a little closed in and dark, but at around 50 hours it sounded more open. They continued to open up more over the next few days.

My System and the frontRow USB Audio Cable

The USB audio cable, like all of the frontRow cables, employs MORRE technology giving me more (bad pun) of everything I wanted from my system and even some things that I didn’t know I wanted.

In my system, this resulted in me listening more like I listen to live music. To me, this is a very good thing. When I go to a concert, I don’t think about the soundstage, the detail, or even transparency. I listen to how well the group plays. I expect to be entertained and for the music to move me emotionally. So it’s worth having or doing anything that can make recorded music in my system or environment sound more like live music.

Comparisons

I had just finished reviewing the Purist Audio Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB Cable when I started this review. So it was only natural to compare these two great sounding cables. I’m not going to repeat everything I said in that review. You can click here to read it.

Both of these cables brought a sense of weight, solidity, scale, and flow that I
associate with live music and good analog sound. Not only that but they also both produced a wonderfully realistic soundstage and neither forced their own sound upon my system.

With either my DeVore gibbon Super Nines or my QUAD ESL 57 speakers, the Audience frontRow cable made my system sound more alive. It had more presence and more drive. In my system, I preferred the Audience frontRow USB cable.

I also tried both of these cables with my iBook connected to the PS Audio DAC. In this setup, I preferred the more laid back Purest cable. The overall sound was quite poor compared to using the Innuos Statement music server. With the Innuos, I preferred the more alive-sounding frontRow cable. It simply sounded more alive and more like live music.

Conclusion

I have written this comparison as if the two USB cables cost the same. However, that is not the case. The frontRow USB cable costs $700 less. Without regard to cost, the Audience frontRow USB cable joins with all the other frontRow cables in my reference system. Very Highly Recommended!

Price for one meter: $1,300